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Abbas reveals progress on Israeli-Palestinian Annapolis talks
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21:18, November 05, 2007

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Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas revealed on Monday progress on Israeli-Palestinian talks that comes in preparation for a U.S.-hosted peace conference in Annapolis.

In a joint news conference with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in Ramallah, Abbas said that the negotiations with the Israeli side "are encouraging for creating the Palestinian statehood."

However, Abbas reiterated that the talks "still difficult despite the encouraging matters", adding that the Palestinians, Israel and the U.S. "were determined to reach a solution before the end of President Bush term".

After meeting Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Sunday, Rice said that the timetable to implement Israeli-Palestinian agreements would last for 14 months, the period remaining for the Bush administration in office.

Abbas told the reporters that the Palestinians will immediately implement their commitments in parallel with Israel doing the same. "Since we are agreed on the obligations, we will work to carry them out immediately."

The Palestinians are ready "to implement the first article of the (Road Map) peace plan, while Israel is also asked to implement it equally and in parallel," Abbas said.

He explained Israel's commitments, which include dismantling the settlements, letting the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) to open its offices in Jerusalem, removing roadblocks, releasing Palestinian prisoners and returning the circumstances back to the form they were on before the start of the Intifada (uprising) in 2000.

Abbas also said he is encouraged by the statements made on Sunday by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert that there is a real opportunity to achieve peace with the Palestinians.

Abbas considered his talks with Rice as "an important introduction," saying he affirmed before her that Israel "must stop the aggression and stop imposing facts on the ground by confiscating the lands and building the West Bank wall and killing our people."

As for Gaza Strip which Abbas lost for Hamas in June, he urged Israel "not to harm the Palestinian people there using the electricity, water and crossings."

For her part, Rice said that she was "very pleased that we now seem to move toward an understanding that Annapolis can indeed be a launching pad toward serious and sustained negotiations."

"This is indeed a historic time. It's a time of historic opportunity," Rice added.

However, she hinted out that the conference, which was initially set for this month, may convene "around the end of the year."

Source: Xinhua

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